Partnerships as a tool to make municipalities more inclusive

“Inclusive municipalities for refugees” was the headline of the event where the focus was on increasing knowledge of how municipalities in Sweden and ICLD’s partner countries can work in partnership to become more inclusive. Swedish municipalities already involved in the Municipal Partnership programme were, of course, invited, but those municipalities not currently actively involved in partnerships were also encouraged to attend.

“We wanted to talk about how the Municipal Partnership programme can be used as part of this inclusiveness work,” says Karin Norlin Bogren.
Politicians and public sector officials who took part in the workshop spoke about the challenges they face – but also about their very real desire to identify solutions.
“Refugees are, after all, living cheek by jowl with residents, so the level of involvement is very high. The discussions in the group I took part in were very lively and there was a real sense of commitment.”

Ideas and suggestions on how the municipalities can address refugee inclusiveness within the framework of municipal partnerships were shared during the day.
“There were a variety of reactions, including, “Ah, is that how you do it?” when people were discussing how to work with refugees, for example. What we wanted to do was to provide examples of how municipalities can work with excluded groups within the framework of our programme, and to offer inspiration that will enable both parties to reach out to one another in a mutual and giving way,” says Karin Norling Bogren.

And a number of municipalities did, indeed, feel inspired, with several expressing an interest in attending an introduction day organised by ICLD. The process has begun…
“We’ve aroused interest, made people think, and inspired a great many people, all of which is very positive. But it’s unclear whether we can actually get these municipalities to sign up for our partnership programme. What’s needed is a process of building support.”

ICLD instituted a new results framework on 1 January 2016, whereby all partnerships must be clearly linked to one of the four core areas for local democracy development.
It’s important that the partnerships are beneficial for both parties, and that development occurs in both the Swedish municipality and its partner municipalities.

One of the issues being addressed by Karin and her team at Municipal Partnerships is optimising the support provided and generating the conditions that will enable the already active municipalities to achieve results.
Another is encouraging new Swedish municipalities, regions and county councils to become active.

Karin is often contacted by municipalities from elsewhere in the world who are looking to forge partnerships with Swedish municipalities.
“I usually encourage them to review their previous relationships and to search our website to find out which Swedish municipalities are active in their country. That’s the best way of finding a partner.”

Historically speaking, it’s proven difficult for municipalities to find partnerships via consultants. Local support is important, and it is the municipality, county council or region that, together with their counterparty elsewhere, must take ownership of the partnership.
“The municipalities can include a description in their application of the expert support they are looking for from a university or from trade and industry in order to achieve their desired results. But at the end of the day, it’s always the municipalities themselves who have to form a team to take ownership of and run their project.”